As part of my general move to get out of the code basement this year I have been secretly plotting my return to Goodreads. On my way back into Goodreads I’m meeting a few people who are on their way out — closing their accounts! — in protest to its acquisition by Amazon last week.
It turns out the the Goodreads community had some expectations — or better, hopes — that their growing community, built around socializing books, was going to go down the ideologically pious “internet foundation” path of Wikipedia and Craigslist to remain independent, unbiased, non-commercial and protective of their privacy.
Whatever. Not be too flip, but I don’t feel much outrage here:
1. First off, I think this is a genius move for Amazon and Goodreads both, but Amazon more. I like the angle that by allowing Goodreads to stay independent Amazon gets some anti-trust mitigation. Ha ha ha! And ironically, as long as Amazon is *really* being a bully on the commercial middleman front the more they need the IMDB and Zappos and now Goodreads businesses to appear independent. Every revolution needs a sugardaddy — viva la revolucion!
2. I think Goodreads will be better off as a product with some financial stability and access to Amazon catalogs and Kindle integration. Only a year ago Goodreads users were freaked out because Goodreads had decided that Amazon integration demands were too restrictive and they withdrew those features! You can’t have it both ways. I tend to vote in favor of better UX when it’s an option.
3. Sure, the independence is precarious (1) and the better UX (2) is funded on the back of commercial pimping, and maybe those are just my cheap justifications for hitting the walkaway privacy-protest fatigue wall. Come on — I think the model is well understood at this point, no? You are giving up some version of your personal information in return for a software service. If Facebook and Twitter and the social services become too draconian or commercial or sucky, they will be replaced by better ones by the market or they will turn into public utilities. Have some faith here. Is pouty take-my-toys-home protest the only way to be heard in this conversation? Meh.
As an alternative to protest I’m seeing something else pop up as a way to register in this the social media privacy conversation: plural identity, by way of pseudonyms.
I’m still ruminating on Jeremy Duns and his sock puppet crusades and I’m still running through my head the Disqus belief that pseudonyms are the healthy norm in online social contexts. Whatever the implications of plural identity as an online behavior and the varied intentions of people who practice it, both me and Petunia Huggins (hint: watch the video) are starting to see that it represents an alternative, subversive, backlash to the commercial data machines that are trying really really hard to get to know us. The machines that scare the walk-away crowd. Hmmm..